Kent State will be the third Mid-American Conference school this season to play a game as a Top 25 team. Unlike the others, the Golden Flashes hope to win one.
Ranked for the first time in 39 years, the No. 25 Golden Flashes can clinch the MAC East championship with a ninth consecutive victory Saturday when they visit a Bowling Green squad looking to keep its division title hopes alive with a seventh straight win.
It's been a special year for Kent State (9-1, 6-0), which secured its first winning season since 2001 thanks to a school-record eight-game winning streak that has followed a 47-14 loss at lowly Kentucky on Sept. 8. The Golden Flashes, whose signature moment was a 35-23 win at then-No. 18 Rutgers last month, secured their first AP ranking since Nov. 5, 1973, after a 48-32 victory at Miami (Ohio) last Saturday.
"We are very excited to be in the Top 25, but there are still many more goals to be accomplished," coach Darrell Hazell told Kent State's official website.
Hazell and his squad have good reason to keep things in perspective considering the two other MAC teams that earned a spot in the Top 25 each lost their first game as a ranked team. Ohio entered the poll at No. 25 on its bye week and reached No. 23, but lost 23-20 at Miami (Ohio) on Oct. 27. Toledo debuted at No. 23 on Nov. 4 before falling 34-27 at home to Ball State two days later.
The Golden Flashes hope they won't suffer the same fate as they remain focused on winning their first East title and securing a spot in the MAC championship game in Detroit on Nov. 30.
"Every game is so critical in the MAC," said Hazell, whose team can set the single-season school record for wins Saturday. "There are so many good football teams and I'm very proud of our football team and how they've stayed the course, how they prepare every week and the maturity of our football team in the locker room."
As Kent State tries for a third straight victory over Bowling Green (7-3, 5-1), the Falcons look to win seven in a row for the first time since 2004. Coming off a 26-14 win at preseason division favorite Ohio last Wednesday, Bowling Green can claim the East title by winning its last two contests.
"It's where you want to be," coach Dave Clawson told Bowling Green's official website. "It sets up another tough game."
Though the Falcons allow league lows of 103.7 rushing yards and 15.1 points per game, they will be in for a major test against a Kent State offense averaging 235.7 yards on the ground to rank 15th in the FBS. The Golden Flashes boast two of the nation's top rushers in sophomore Trayion Durham (1,059 yards) and junior Dri Archer (1,043).
Durham has averaged 133.5 yards and scored seven touchdowns in his last four games. He ran for a career-high 172 and two scores at Miami.
Archer, who averages 40.0 yards per kick return to lead the nation, rushed for 151 and had three total touchdowns against the Redhawks.
Durham ran for 62 yards and a TD on 19 carries in a 27-15 home win over Bowling Green last season.
The Falcons are paced by sophomore Anthon Samuel, who has rushed for 656 of his 906 yards in his last five games. He gained a career-high 181 and scored twice against Ohio.
Bowling Green looks to snap a five-game skid against Top 25 opponents that dates to a 27-17 win at No. 25 Pittsburgh on Aug. 30, 2008.